Winning by Innovating
The unsung heroes behind Singapore’s most outstanding public sector IT projects were honoured at this year’s National Infocomm Awards 2016, which was held at Marina Bay Sands on 10 November 2016.
It’s an open secret that the public sector has embraced tech innovation for a wide range of services from transport to healthcare and business grants, with the goal of benefitting all Singapore citizens.
So it was no surprise when several agencies shared the spotlight at the biannual awards, which celebrates the most outstanding innovations and technologies from public and private organisations across Singapore.
Check out this year’s Public Sector winners of the National Infocomm Awards, which was jointly organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF).
Ask Me Anything, I’m a ChatBot
If you have questions on your eligibility for the Baby Bonus and there is no one to consult with in the middle of the night, you might want to ask Jamie instead of waiting till the next day to speak to an agent at a call centre.
Ask Jamie is a virtual assistant (VA) developed by the Ministry of Finance and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), and ‘she’ won the Merit Award in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Public Sector) category. (Top Photo)
The chatbot uses Natural Language Processing to understand questions posed by the public, and can ask follow-on questions to give the user a more specific answer.
Ask Jamie can address cross-agency queries and even seamlessly transition to chatting with a real person, should the need arise.
“As of October, 130,000 questions were asked per month with an accuracy of 90% and relevancy of 93%. In a survey of users, 60% found the answers useful and 58% found that Ask Jamie saved them a call to the call centre,” said Ms Gladys Tay, Deputy Director of Citizen Product at the Government Technology Agency.
Beyond the current Ask Jamie VA, there are exciting plans to extend it to a conversational chatbot with transactional capabilities, to further enhance interaction between citizens and the government.
So, expect to use popular messaging platforms such as the Facebook Messenger, Skype and Telegram to ask questions via Ask Jamie soon, and to carry out transactions in future.
North star guidance for public transport
This year’s winner in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Public Sector) category has made a difference for millions of Singaporean commuters.
With the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) Project Land Transport Real-time Info@SG (POLARis), the 3.8 million bus trips made each year are tracked in real-time to monitor traffic conditions and predict arrival times for commuters.
“Since POLARis was first implemented in 2013, customer satisfaction has grown from 88.3% to 90.7%, even as the number of trips increased 100,000 each year,” according to an LTA spokesperson.
Tracking the movements of every single public bus in real-time is no mean feat, demanding accurate location sensors that can send data second by second.
Instead of expensive, purpose-built radio networks, LTA used ruggedised SIM cards that tap onto the existing public telecommunication networks.
This allowed them to achieve bus arrival predictions with an accuracy that was 95% better than most advanced cities within six months, at a fraction of the cost.
Not only does POLARis help commuters better plan their travel, it also allows bus operators to understand the demand, and correspondingly increase the number of buses on busy routes.
Information on traffic incidents is also made available to every bus driver on a dual-language console to help them complete their journeys smoothly.
Crowdsourced first responders with a heart
Here’s a sobering statistic: Close to 5,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in Singapore each year.
In the event of cardiac arrest, every minute that passes decreases the likelihood of survival by 7-10%.
This next app, which won the first runner up in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Public Sector) category, could make the difference.
Developed by the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF) and GovTech, the mResponder app alerts users to nearby cases of cardiac arrest so that they are able to render immediate assistance, even before the arrival of emergency services.
“The myResponder team approached building owners and regulatory bodies to get their permission to share the AED location information,” explained Lieutenant Carl Ross de Souza, a senior staff officer with SCDF who oversees medical projects.
“In this process, the good practices of maintaining AEDs are also shared with the respective owners.”
Collaborating with public transport provider SMRT Corporation and philanthropic organisation Temasek Foundation Cares, SCDF made automated external defibrillators (AED) available in 100 taxis and trained drivers in cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The “AED on Wheels” project taps on the myResponder app to mobilise taxi drivers and is believed to be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.
The SCDF has been promoting the app through publicity booths and training sessions, and the response has been heartwarming.
According to Lieutenant de Souza, over 10,000 people have registered as responders to date, and their feedback is helping to improve the app.
Packing less errors in billing
In the past, paper invoices from the National Health Group Pharmacy (NHGPh) had to be transcribed manually by staff at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Pharmacy into their billing system.
To improve on this labour-intensive, error-prone process, IMH, NHGPh and the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) developed a system called Medication Packing Engine (MPE) that allows medication orders to be electronically sent from IMH to NHGPh and automatically transcribed.
Drug items dispensed by NHGPh are then automatically transmitted back to IMH’s patient billing system.
“In fact, IMH nurses now spend 35% less time during medication administration, enabling them to spend more time on other patient-care activities. IMH pharmacy staff now also save 93% of their time previously spent on the manual billing of patients,” said an IMH spokesperson.
For NHGPh, medication filing process time has been reduced 56%, while turnaround times have improved by 50% and dispensing near miss errors are down by 40%.
In total, over S$760,000 in manpower costs per year have been saved.
Expect to hear more about the MPE, which was the second runner up in the “Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Public Sector)” category, in future.